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‘NYT’ does not own the Karmi house, former bureau chief stresses

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Yesterday I published a statement from the author Ghada Karmi about the pain of visiting her family’s former house in Jerusalem in 2005 at the invitation of then-New-York-Times bureau chief Steve Erlanger. The Times owns an apartment built atop that house. I asked Erlanger, now the newspaper’s London bureau chief, if he wanted to respond to the account. He wrote:

You’re asking me to react to something you’ve already published, which is fine.

I would only point out that I contacted Ghada after I read her memoir [In Search of Fatima, 2002], which ended with her inability to get inside the house of her childhood, and I wanted to help her do that. It was not meant as a polemical gesture but a human one for a writer I admired.

I also want to emphasize that the New York Times does not own the Karmi house and New York Times correspondents do not live in the Karmi house. An Israeli family does.

Ghada herself notes that we were living “in an apartment which had been built on the top of our house. Our house was a villa on one floor. They don’t have two stories. But this had been built at some time. The New York Times bought it in like 1983. And its bureau chiefs have been living in it ever since.”

Sometime in the 1960’s, I believe, certainly years after Palestinians fled or were pushed out of the area, someone built a two-story dwelling on the roof of the single-story Karmi house, which is legally separate from it and shares no living space with the Karmi house.

I believe Tom Friedman bought it for the NY Times in the early 1980’s, perhaps 1983.

We’ve been through this before, but your own article implies that the New York Times and its reporters occupy the same house in which Ghada grew up. That is not true.

Philip Weiss

Philip Weiss is senior editor of and founded the site in 2005-06.

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11 Responses

  1. John Smithson on December 3, 2015, 12:59 pm

    ‘We’ve been through this before, but your own article implies that the New York Times and its reporters occupy the same house in which Ghada grew up. That is not true.’

    A distinction without a difference? ‘We don’t occupy the house – just the apartment above built after her family was exiled’. Oh – my mistake, obviously the two ideas are totally separate.

    • annie on December 3, 2015, 2:28 pm

      the implication of what he is saying is no different than claiming settlers don’t occupy palestinian land because they built their house themselves after the state authorized stealing the land. it’s crazy logic. obviously if the karmi family owned the house and the plot of land it was on they also owned the roof of their house where the apartment was built. the apartment is occupying the land of the karmi’s as well as anyone occupying the apartment.

      • Kris on December 3, 2015, 3:28 pm

        What!!!!! I had just started planning to build a guest suite I can rent out, on top of my neighbor’s house (he won’t like it, but who cares, really?), and now you’re saying I can’t?

    • pabelmont on December 3, 2015, 2:37 pm

      You really have to admire the finicky attention to detail Erlanger shows here. As if to say, ‘NYT owns (or rents or occupies) something built atop what was once her family’s house, atop and thus not her house at all, atall.’ You know, like a next-door neighbor. Anyhow, NYT acknowledges that it has a house atop a house lost/stolen/strayed/borrowed/confiscated/received-in-possibly-unwilling-transfer by Israel from Palestinians who somehow (let’s not get too far into that, but he does say: “fled or were pushed out of the area”) disappeared in 1948.

      There is a reason you have to admire this finicky attention to detail.

      That reason is the smearing of reality that we so often see from the NYT. Erlanger here shows that he knows how to do it sort-of-right even if NYT chooses (no accounting for choice of editors/publishers, is there?) not to do it even sort-of-right much of the time when reporting from occupied Palestine. I guess honesty from a man is different from propaganda from a rag suitable to wrap dead fish in.

      Admission of bias: since Israel conquered all of Israel-48 in the war of 1948 and has not yet made peace or defined mutually acceptable boundaries with various of its enemies-in-1948, enemies such as the then-states Lebanon and Syria and the then-who-knows-what Palestine, I regard all of Israel-48 as belligerently occupied territory. I believe that some people disagree on this point.

    • Emory Riddle on December 3, 2015, 3:27 pm

      Exactly. How can these folks make such statements with a straight face? Are they really do delusional when it comes to Zionism? Or is honesty just not a virtue to them?

      • bintbiba on December 4, 2015, 8:27 am

        Since when did logic enter into the discourse…?

        Thank you , annie, for making the point. Not too complicated to comprehend !!

  2. eljay on December 3, 2015, 1:33 pm

    To summarize:
    – The NYT owns and occupies an apartment built on top of the occupied family home of Palestinians driven out of Occupied Jerusalem by the Terrorism and Occupation Forces of Israel.
    – A “nice Israeli family” occupies the Palestinian woman’s family home in Occupied Jerusalem.
    – Steve thought it would be a great idea to get the Palestinian woman back into her occupied family home in Occupied Jerusalem as a prop for a photo op.
    – She could even meet the family that currently occupies her home in Occupied Jerusalem!
    – And then, once all the pleasantries were over, she’d have to get the f*ck out of her occupied family home in Occupied Jerusalem.

  3. Boomer on December 3, 2015, 1:57 pm

    The original article (and others I’ve read) was entirely clear. He is deliberately missing the point. As the Zionists always say, using various words in a futile effort to avoid the obvious, “it’s complicated.”

  4. Rusty Pipes on December 3, 2015, 5:28 pm

    It may well be that neither the nice family below nor the NYT in the apartment above fully own the property as far as Israel is concerned. If the home had been confiscated by the ILA, they would be prevented from giving or selling the property to a non-Jew even if they wanted.

    It is worth noting that, at some point, one of the Jewish owners of the property managed to build a two story apartment on top of a one-story house — with or without building permits. Palestinian Citizens of Israel rarely can get permits to repair or improve the homes they already own much less to build new ones.

    • John O on December 4, 2015, 6:23 am

      We live in a semi-detached house and are pretty pissed-off with the man who owns the other semi has planning permission to build a house on the end, thus converting our home into a less valuable terraced property. I can only imagine how angry Ghada Karmi must be over her far more serious dispossession.

      • Mooser on December 4, 2015, 11:50 am

        “We live in a semi-detached house…”

        Me too. A lot of my house is detached. And if it gets any more detached, it’ll be completely repossessed!

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